I’m in the process of reading Ayn Rand’s classic Atlas Shrugged. As I progress through the pages penned in the 1940’s, I am astounded at the parallelisms I can draw with the fictional society created by Ms. Rand and the policy approaches and philosophies attempting to be instituted at many levels of government in the United States today. As a horse doctor, issues affecting horses and maybe more importantly, the horse industry, tend to catch my attention a little more than some other issues. One issue in particular has been New York City’s mayor Bill Deblasio’s insistent on banning carriage horses in the city, on the grounds that pulling a carriage is abusive to the horses involved, in spite of evidence and opinion to the contrary from multiple veterinarians and other equine professionals. It seems one of two explanations for the mayor’s plan exist. First is the explanation that this is simply political maneuvering to evacuate some very valuable NYC real estate which could be gobbled up and cashed in on by some of the mayor’s buddies. Second is that the left leaning liberal mayor is allowing his feelings to create policy rather than rational analysis and heeding of advice and evidence brought forth by experts. Whatever the explanation, each of these two reasons are mirrors of the governing which takes place in Atlas Shrugged and ultimately leads to the demise of both the people and the looter government officials who govern via feelings and self interest rather than facilitating individual and collective growth of the nation through policies encouraging individual enterprise and development by the people. Eh, just a fictional writing, can’t happen in real life. Wrong.
A prime example of governing on feelings vs rational is the decision once again to essentially ban horse slaughter and processing for meat by not providing funds for the inspection of meat for European export and consumption. The ban on horse processing in the United States has resulted in horses intended for processing to be trailered to Mexico and Canada to meet their fate. Now, the European Union has banned importation of horse meat processed in Mexico due to several violations of EU standards ranging from humane treatment of horses to traceability to outdated and inadequate first aid kits. So will loss of the EU market spare more horses? According to one industry expert, and it only seems rational, that the Russian and Chinese markets will easily absorb the volume of EU meat, likely for a cheaper price and undoubtedly with less stringent attention to the care of the product pre or post processing. So, now while officials and horse processing opponents can “feel good” about not processing horses on American soil, these same horses are being subjected to a more dismal ending to wind up as food product for Russia or China, and isn’t America fixing to begin importing chicken from China? But nobody ever said horse meat tastes like chicken, have they?
I don’t like the idea of horse slaughter, cannot imagine ever sending one of my horses to that ending for a few bucks. However, I can remove my feelings from the situation enough to realize it may be the option acceptable to someone else, may provide a business opportunity or a job for someone else. Processing horses in America may lead to development of a more humane method of termination, may lead to a healthier product for a European or Russian or Chinese, and maybe we can rest assured that there ain’t nothin’ in our chicken, but chicken. In spite of my feelings towards processing horses for food, I can rationalize the industry.
At an annual meeting of the American Association of Equine Practitioneers (AAEP), not too manmy years ago, a veterinary speaker involved in the legislative process spoke about his experience discussing the horse processing laws with a Congressman. The veterinarian presented the facts of what was happening to horses sent to slaughter outside of the United States, the likelihood of dramatic increases in the number of unwanted horses, and the negative effects of the slaughter ban on the equine industry. He then related how the Congressman looked him in the eye and said he saw his point, and personally agreed with him. However, he next said that when he has hundreds of constituents calling his office to voice their opposition to horse slaughter while very few voice support, he would be voting to continue the ban, after all, it’s his desire to be re-elected.
So we are left with a choice. it is either necessary for us as citizens to be a voice of reason more vocally to our elected officials, or to elect leadership with enough backbone to make rational, economically sound and rational decisions in spite of what the verbose feel good movement may advocate. There is plenty to feel good about when we can maintain industry, jobs and the inevitable opportunities which arise to improve the faults which exist in any industry or business.